Yamanaka-led team takes aim at anemia with iPS cell breakthrough


A group of Japanese researchers said Tuesday that they have succeeded in creating a cell capable of helping to increase red blood cell count using induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells.

The cell produces erythropoietin, a hormone that facilitates production of red blood cells, according to the team from Kagawa University and Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, headed by professor Shinya Yamanaka, whose iPS cell experiments won him the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

The breakthrough could lead to the production of hormone preparations to treat anemia, the group said.

A lack of the hormone, which is produced in the kidney, can cause a decrease in red blood cells, resulting in serious cases of anemia.

Many people who live with dialysis machines use artificial preparations of the hormone on a regular basis to mitigate the symptoms.

The researchers tested the erythropoietin-producing cell on mice, which improved from anemic conditions, they said.

There are about 300,000 people on artificial dialysis across Japan, and their treatment costs ¥90 billion a year, Kagawa University says.

“If this technology becomes commercially available, it could help reduce the costs,” said Hirofumi Hitomi, an assistant professor at the university.

The outcome of the team’s study will be reported Friday at an annual meeting of the Japan Endocrine Society in Sendai.